£1million project aims to breathe new life into disused Sunderland homes

Jen McKevitt

A Sunderland charity has launched a £1million drive to bring disused homes back into use.

Back on the Map has a long term strategy to buy up empty and poorly-managed properties in Hendon, refurbish them and then offer them as good quality homes.

(from left) Ernest Johnson, chairman of Back on the Map Enterprises; Hazel Clark, chairman of Back On The Map Charity; Nancy Doyle-Hall, Executive Director Virgin Money Foundation; Jen McKevitt and Coun Graeme Miller

Over the last eight years, more than 70 properties have been acquired and refurbished by Back on the Map and a further 25 improved through HCA and council funding, which has allowed the owners of empty homes to refurbish their properties and let them to local families.

Now the charity is ploughing £390,000 of its own money into the project, alongside a long-term loan of £390,000 from Sunderland City Council and a £220,00 grant from The Virgin Money, in order to buy 20 family homes which will be renovated and and returned to the rental market.

Back on the Map chief executive Jen McKevitt said: "Hendon currently suffers from a shortage of high-quality private rental accommodation, with too many poorly-managed private rented and empty properties.

"This housing situation is a key factor in the erosion of community stability, causing distress for residents and contributing to anti-social behaviour and crime in the area. We want to build a better place and a stronger community.

"Thanks to this grant from The Virgin Money Foundation and forward-thinking from Sunderland City Council, we are now able to take this important leap forward in our growth plan, growing the availability of high-quality housing and bringing local homes under responsive local management."

Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for Health, Housing and Adult Services, Coun Graeme Miller said: “We all welcome this grant from Virgin Money Foundation which will be put to good use, and show just what can be achieved when the public, private and voluntary sector all work together to improve housing.

"Working together with Back on the Map has helped create a new sense of community in this part of the city."

Nancy Doyle, Executive Director of The Virgin Money Foundation added: "Empty Homes across the country are a wasted resource and often a blight on communities.

"Bringing these properties back into use as homes will not only help the many people who are in need of housing across the country, but also begin to regenerate neighbourhoods. The Virgin Money Foundation, through its Ripple Fund, is delighted to be partnering with Sunderland City Council and Back on the Map to bring properties back into use in Hendon and to improve the standards of private rented accommodation in the area."

The launch of the new project in Hendon coincides with National Empty Homes week beginning Monday 16 October 2017, an annual campaign by the charity Empty Homes to celebrate successes and reflect on what more needs to be done to bring empty properties back into use to meet housing needs.

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